If you are getting a new rabbit for the first time and planning how much hay to prepare and the cost per month, this is the article for you.
On average, the amount of hay a rabbit eats a month is around 150% of its weight. So, a rabbit that is 5 pounds will typically need about 7-8 pounds of hay every month. Therefore, expect to pay around $40 to $50 monthly for hay
However, knowing an average amount is not enough if you have no idea how much of each hay type to feed. So continue reading if you want to make sure that your rabbit is always getting enough hay without having to overbuy.
How Much Hay Does a Rabbit Need?
By default, you should provide unlimited amounts of hay in multiple varieties, as long as they continue to ask for more.
A rabbit will generally eat around five percent of its body weight in hay daily. This means about one to three cups of hay every day, alongside fresh, dark greens and leafy vegetables.
Always consider the size and type of rabbit you have when figuring out how much hay to feed. A rabbit of a smaller breed such as dwarf or lop will eat less than a rabbit of a larger breed such as a New Zealand White.
The amount will depend on the rabbit, but in general, a large handful is enough to suffice for most happy bunnies, but if your rabbit tells you in his own way he would like more, always oblige! The rule of thumb is always to have various hay available.
Do not forget that all rabbits are different, so learning your rabbit’s needs is monumental.
Which Hay Should I Give My Rabbit?
Now that you know the proper amount, it is time to look at your options for hay.
Below is a table of the monthly hay consumption of my own rabbit (weighing 5 pounds)
|Hay Type||Hay diet composition||Monthly consumption in lb||Est. monthly cost|
|Orchard Grass||10%||0.8 lb||$5|
Timothy hay is the default staple for rabbits because it has thicker stems and low in protein. Having thicker stems help your rabbit in terms of digestion (high fiber) and dental health (teeth grinding). Also, as timothy hay is low in protein, your rabbit can eat as much as it likes without growing fat.
Keeping an open mind on hay and providing a variety of hay have a few benefits:
- Allows you the free range of cost efficiency,
- Removes the dependency on any specific type of hay, if it becomes difficult to require due to production shortages
- Helps you find what your rabbit likes and dislikes, what works well with their digestive system
- If you do not have a fussy bunny, this can balance the nutrition differences of the hay.
Alfalfa is primarily for rabbits under a year old. It is higher in protein and calcium and provides the necessary amount for a growing rabbit to reach adulthood. I would not recommend too much of it past the age of one year, as that can upset an adult rabbit’s stomach.
If you are worried about the cost of hay, consider researching farmer’s markets and small shops designed for sourcing hay from local farmers and nearby areas. These places offer lower prices than buying online or from large retailers. Do not be afraid to drive for decent hay. You will thank yourself, and so will your rabbit!
Quick Nutrition Basics
Proper hay intake is vital for not only a happy rabbit but also:
- Curbs your rabbit’s desire to chew.
- Prevent dental disease, which can lead to your rabbit losing its teeth.
- Prevents molar spurs, which are sharp hooks that develop on their teeth. These are extremely painful and will stop a rabbit from eating.
- Helps to promote healthy gut digestion while lowering the risk of your rabbit having GI Stasis, having gas and an upset tummy with potential gut blockages, and avoiding vet visits that neither you nor your bunny wants to do. Who wants to visit the vet when you can be playing?
Good hay should be:
- Green, with occasional hints of brown, or half/half
- Sweet smelling, but not overwhelming
Avoid hay that is:
- Prepackaged, as this hay can end up being too brown, dusty, or old.
- Has a moldy smell. This signals that the hay was not dried properly, and has been damp or currently is damp.
The greener the hay, you will be closer to the nutritional value of proteins, low starch, low fat, and calcium.
The browner the hay, the closer to fiber nutrition value. Fiber is an essential and valued nutrient as it helps promote good dental hygiene and positive intestinal health.
Is My Rabbit Getting Enough Hay?
There are signs to pay attention to when it comes to your rabbit and its hay. If you paid attention to their individual demeanor, you would know if something was off. Particular when your rabbit is not eating because it doesn’t like a certain type of hay.
But what about other things that could show that they are not getting exactly what they need, even if you follow the basic know-how?
The Know Is in The Poo.
- Healthy rabbit poop is larger, round, with golden flecks from the hay.
- Healthy rabbit poop crumbles easily and is sticky.
- Unhealthy droppings appear smaller, drier, or are on a string-like structure.
- If your rabbit has slowed down eating his poop, this could be a sign of insufficient hay.
Rabbits naturally produce two different types of poops. The type they eat is called cecotropes, and it is very nutrient-dense and provides extra protein, less fiber, and certain vitamins (such as the important B vitamins!) that the rabbit needs.
Always remember every bunny situation is unique, and a small drop in desire for hay is not a big issue. It will just be a time to try out a handful of new ideas.
What You Can Do to Help Improve Their Desire For Hay
Rabbits are smart, so you need to be smarter.
Thinking creatively will boost your confidence as a rabbit owner and keep your friend on their toes.
Your rabbit does not need to be lacking a desire for hay for these tactics to be employed.
Frankly, doing these things while feeding your rabbit hay will foster a positive relationship between the two of you and help the rabbit’s perception of delicious greens. It’s a lot like getting a toddler to eat their vegetables!
- Rearrange the hay during the day. Doing this will make your bunny think there is new hay to be had, and his curiosity will get the best of him. He will throw it around, nibble, and you may even find him sleeping on it later at night.
- Change the type of hay you use daily. You could set up a schedule for different hay that is provided (again, variety is good!). Rabbits will pick through hay and become bored easily, so don’t forget to take out yesterday’s hay when you provide the new goodies.
- Create fun toys using chewable items, like an empty toilet paper roll stuffed with hay that will engage your bunny’s mind, burn off some energy, and provide a fun snack.
- Rabbits have been known to munch on hay while pooping, so putting hay at mouth level in a rack by their litter box is an excellent way to initiate a munch-a-thon.
If you feel extremely alarmed, concerned, or overwhelmed, never hesitate to contact your exotic animal doctor and ask questions or set up an appointment.
While we can do things to help our rabbits want more hay, sometimes medical intervention is the best route. This is particularly if your rabbit appears sluggish, has shifted from its normal attitude, or in worst cases, is suffering from seizures.
Hay makes up 80 to 85% of a rabbit’s diet. They need to chew, and hay provides that option on top of all the nutrients that herbivores like them need. With all that is available, finding something to suit your rabbit’s needs will take a moment, but when you provide the proper diet, you can be sure your soon-to-be best friend will live a long, happy, and binky-filled life.